I love musical theater. The singing, the dancing, the story… it’s all wonderful! I have over a week’s worth of songs from musicals on my iTunes and I make a pilgrimage to New York City every year for the express purpose of seeing Broadway shows. I have a radio show on the college radio station dedicated to musicals old and new and can recite the entire libretto of Phantom of the Opera on cue. Both acts.
It’s clearly a passion of mine and I’m always excited to talk about it. One time I met someone at the pub and began describing how much I loved musicals when he cut me off. “Gaaaaayyyy.”
Excuse me? “Only gay guys like musicals.” I was incensed. Who put that idea into his head? “Everybody knows it. If you’re in a musical, you’re gay. If you like musicals, you’re gay.” Conversation over.
The idea that gays are the only ones interested in musical theater is still perpetuated even today. In any film or television show, watch a man sing any song. He is instantly labeled feminine and must change.
It’s true that many homosexuals have been involved with musical theater since it’s inception. Thomas Dukes in an article for the GLBTQ Encyclopedia stated:
Musical theater during its peak in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century served gay men in several ways. Perhaps most important, it provided a safe place for gay men and straights to meet on a culturally neutral, although closeted, playing field.
The musical theater made male participation in song and dance–activities identified with highbrow effeminacy in many parts of American society–acceptable in a popular entertainment form that reinforced the validity of heterosexual romance. Thus, gay (as well as straight) men could engage in culturally suspect behavior and win approval for doing so.
Because so many gay actors, choreographers etc found a home on Broadway, when the AIDS epidemic came to the United States in the early 1980’s, Broadway took a huge toll as their stars began to fade. There are now many Broadway groups that stand up to help raise funds and awareness for AIDS research and medicine, most notably Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
Neil Patrick Harris really finishes this post for me. The 2011 Tony Awards opening number is what I’ve been trying to say all along. Broadway’s not just for gays anymore.